A Generalist and a Scholar
Hi, Mike Pasco we've got a great show for you today, but before we launch into it, here's a word from our first sponsor. This message is brought to you by hotels dot com. You know, when you're endlessly scrolling social media, and then you see it, it's your friend Gavin incur- sow on another vacation, what do you do? You hate like his photo and immediately. Go to hotels dot com to book vacation so epic. So awesome. So sweet that your friends will hate like your trip hotels dot com, be there do that get rewarded the following recording may or may not include instances of words being said that the FCC would find me for their long arm could ever reach. It's Thursday, June thirteenth two thousand nineteen from slate, it's the gist, I might pass. There are a few candidates for president who will be debating TV, but not on the TV in two weeks. Time yesterday and be CNBC family of networks announced an extended family of moderators to play sort of zone defense on the twenty candidates who will be debating apparently savannah, Guthrie is going to lock up Bernie in a box in one while Lester Holt and Rachel Maddow. Try to keep Betto and Jila Brandt out of the low post as Jose Diaz Balart displays the lockdown perimeter defense on Harris. Warren Booker swallow, well, Chuck Todd fierce rim protector. Not my house. Tulsi Gabbard but left out in a d league all their own. We'll be the likes of Steve Bullock, Seth Moulton, Wayne mess him and Mike gravel. Now at this point. Microsoft is apparently Meam he's possibly a hologram. Seems to be operated by two college kids out of their dorm room but Steve Bullock. And Seth Moulton are bonafide elected officials. And so is Wayne mess him. But he's elected to a city. It's more of a town really. It's the fourth biggest town in his county. Steve Bullock got two hundred fifty five thousand votes for the office he holds Seth Moulton got two hundred seventeen thousand votes for the office. He holds when mess him got five thousand eight hundred forty eight foot have you want to say? What about mayor Pete? He only got eighty five hundred votes. Yes. But and this is the most salient point, a significant number of people would like him to be president. No one wants Wayne mess him to be president. No one has told a pollster they'd like him to be president. No one is giving him any money towards the goal of being president and very few people voted for him turn out and Broward County was on election day nine percent. Why do we even mention Wayne mess hymns name? On the list of announced candidates who've been denied space. Why isn't he alongside the wackadoo longshots? We could safely ignore. I'll tell you why. It's Marianne Williamson. That's it isn't it right? Once Oprah's guru polls. Or fundraisers, her way into the debates we no longer have threshold for saying, okay below this, you're too wacky to even be mentioned in the coverage of not getting coverage you can argue for mess. Embolic molten, not getting invited to the debate. It's better coverage than what Tim Ryan or John Hickenlooper gonna get by being in the debate this day or two of stories about the guys weren't debated, at least that sets them apart. It's a differentiator everyone in the debate it's just some other guy or woman in the debate, it takes a special kind of democrat to be left out of the debates. They have that special something Bullock, Multan mess him and virtual reality. Mike reveals won't even have to deal with Jose Diaz Balart wrestling, the microwave and wagging a finger saying not in my house on the show today in the field. It's an episode of this is stupid, which really doesn't narrow it down in two thousand nine hundred America does it but first, a great new book from young young ish writer, whose proving himself to be a master of the nonfiction form. David Epsteins last book was the sports, gene. And now he's out with a new one about whether it's better to be a Federer or a tiger. Woods. The answer clearly is a Federer unless you want back pain, and dozens of concubines, maybe hundreds, but the two are actually archetypes that illustrate the central discussion contained in range, white generalists triumph in a specialized world. David Epstein up next. Two thousand fourteen David Epstein was invited to these Sloan analytics conference. It's where all the MIT based conference where all the nerds and sports, jocks convene, and he was he was invited to debate, Malcolm glad well, who has this famous theory that with ten thousand hours of practice you get better at something. So let's call for the sake of argument. Glad well, a specialist a man who believes in specialization Epstein had a different view. He believed in generalization, and he took the debate as an opportunity to form a hypothesis to test the hypothesis and from there will find out about the debate, and we'll also find out about the results of that exercise, which is the book that sitting right here on my desk, range. Why generalists triumph in a specialized world? David, thanks for coming on the gist again. Thank you for having me. So did you have this? Intuition, that general ISM was. Right. Or did you go in having any research on it? Well by they tap you. Debate him. Is my question. Well, because I wrote this book, the sports, gene. Yeah. Criticizes work, basically, and more. So I- Chris, it was really the problem was with the underlying science of the ten thousand hour rule. And so when I wrote the sports, gene, critiqued him, they invited us there to kind of have this debate and, you know, he's very clever and I'd never met him before. And I didn't want to embarrass. So did some homework and I tried to anti-state what he'd argue is he's gonna have to argue early specialization. It's like a core part of some of the things he's written. And so I said, well, all right. I'm going to do a search all the literature and find and look at when we actually track athletes like what does it look like? And the answer was it's they have what scientists call sampling period. They play a variety of sports. They learn these broad general skills that scaffold later skills, a learn about their interests. Learn about their abilities, systematically delay specialization until later than peers. So I kind of called this, the Roger verse. Tiger problem Tiger Woods, we know super early specialization Roger Federer kinda everything. Basically, he was a total opposite. And my question was, which of these is the norm. And it turns out, it's, it's the Roger bath and engulf also happens to be a horrible model of almost every other skill people wanna learn. So we've been extrapolating from the wrong story. And when, when Gladwin I came off that stage he kind of said you, don't you got me on was that Roger verse? Tiger thing and then we became running buddies couple blocks from here for cream park, and we were talking about on our own time, and eventually decided to expand it to other domains did the subsequent discussions with Malcolm. Glad well actually spark more intuitions on your part. It just made me curious if I would find the same pattern in other domains, but eventually, I just sort of filed it in the back of my head, really. And I was just starting a new job at propublica and so wasn't something I was ready to take on. But then I got involved with the Pat Tillman foundation, give scholarships to military veterans soldiers military spouses to aid in career changes, essentially, and I gave a talk there about some this late specialization in sports, and they like jumped on it, and we're like we're all behind. I mean two days later, I got an Email from navy Exxon. ABC who is in the crowd, who was had undergrad degree in geophysics in history and was in Dartmouth and Harvard at the same time in public ministration and business saying, I feel so relieved. Like, I'm not I'm like, are you kidding man's? You've been made to feel they brainwash this guy. Yeah. Like a then maybe I should look into this a little more. You're a generalist. Yeah. I mean I started I'll generalists to the weird thing. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, of course, of course, generalist you broaden specialized is about degree and to some degree about semantics, but I mean I was going down to science track. Right in, in that unexpectedly turned out to be by far. The most valuable thing for me at Sports Illustrated geology major an astronomy. Yeah, I went to grad school. I was like, moon rocks where exactly you're the middle of dyke. I mean I was living in a tent in the Arctic when I decided for sure, I was going to try to be a, a writer. Yeah. And I started when I finally got Endesa as a temp fact, checker, and it was these weird skills that I had that kind of, like vaulted me. You know, pass people who are waiting in line to be like, the, the twentieth in line to be the next beat reporter for whatever sport when people when young people ask me for advice on what to do to break into sports, I tell them get a niche, specialty, like if you wanna be a baseball reporter, learn everything about say the mechanics of 'em pirating or learn speak Korean and Japanese, that'd be really good. So is this good advice, or bad advice, like to differentiate yourself really learn something gained some expertise in some ancillary area? I think differentiating is good. I think in some ways, which are telling them is to take like a skill that's normally somewhere else and bring it into this, and that I think is a good thing. Right. So whereas I was totally ordinary scientist. Once I was moving area of journalism it looks like I'm like, oh, specialists, right. To suddenly, it's extraordinary even though I was. Totally average in this other area, but it would've been insane for someone who's dream as an eight year old to work in sl to spend his ten thousand hours tried to be a writer, like I don't know what that would even look. I'm not sure what that would look like either. And I think I think the important thing, one of the one of the classic findings that I kind of hammer on in the book in different ways is it can be summarized as breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer transfers. What psychologists the word they use when they mean taking skills or knowledge and being able to apply them in situations? You have not seen before, and what predicts your ability to do that is, how broad you're training is so that you, you learn not just procedures you can use, but these sort of more general models that are flexible, that you can apply. And so, even if you were getting started earlier writer, would you should make sure to do is really very up those challenges? So in the writing of this book where, you know, the sports scene was an organizational challenge. This was much more. So when I got stuck, I took an online fiction writing course, and that, like got me out of my rut. And I think you know allowed me to do something I hadn't done before. Why what, what? About fiction I was stuck with figuring out how to organize and I went into that class. First of all, it just it just gave me the sense of being a beginner again. You know, I wasn't I realize certain types strategies like uses of, like certain types of line breaks that I was relying on just out of instinct. Yeah. And relying using quotes in a certain way just out of instinct, I didn't even realize I was doing so then I take that class, and we have to some of the exercise where you have to write only with dialogue and some, you can't use dialogue at all went back through the whole manuscript start stripping out all these quotes that weren't that good. And then I had just been like relying on to tell the story for me in a way that I shouldn't have done in and made me realize I didn't even realize certain habits that were so ingrained that until I sort of broke out of them, I wasn't being a good editor of myself. So this is good. This isn't just that you got into a different mindset. You started seeing the world in different way in it seeped into your work. This was really taking wholesale the lessons of this fiction course. And boom putting it in your sort of freaked me out a little bit because then I went back and I was like, what was I thinking? With, like quoting this, and this and this like these aren't, even good quotes, like I should explain these things. And so it, it made me wary realizing that even being aware that you should diversify challenges. I was like, no better to scaping that actual cognitive bias in practice until I got outside and did something else. But it seems that you have this ability, I don't know if this generalization to really self assess and to honestly, blow the whistle on yourself so like lad. Well did in your debate. But also, you know, in the sports, gene. If you look in the back material some of your citations are criticizing articles in Sports Illustrated, that you wrote that tell you that before nobody's ever called me on that before. I did my research. Okay. No, you didn't. Well, maybe I told somebody that before because nobody's really ever called me that, but I did site some of my own articles as having been wrong because once I like the first year of my books. All I do is try to read ten journal articles day every day for the first year and in doing that, even having written a seven thousand word article I realized I got. Things. Right. Not like straight factual errors, but things that people with PHD's had told me which they could not actually conclude from their data. And once I went through it in a lot more detail. I realize those things wrong. And it so you relied on the expertise say, yeah, exactly. But this like calling out yourself sort of thing. This is like one of the main habits of so-called, self-regulatory learners people who, don't stay on plateaus long of skill. They really reflect on, on what they're doing very actively in our kind of self critical. Okay. So is it generalist more likely or able to be that because of your specialist and, and it would seem to have such higher stakes to blow the whistle on yourself because that's the only thing you got. If you say you know what I've been playing the violin for fifteen years. And I've listened to tapes, and I'm just no good. You don't have maracas to fall back and let me give you an example. So there's that relates to sort of two things in the book, the first one in chapter ten, which looks at expert political and economic prediction. And this was a twenty year study to figure out how good we're expert. Actions about world trends. And usually when we see people on TV, they're just like strong probability. This will have a strong possibility that doesn't even know what that means. So this was twenty years specific predictions had to be made with specific probabilities and specific deadlines, and it turned out that the worst forecasters were the most narrow specialists like people who had spent their whole life, studying one problem because no matter what they had to predict they would bend everything into this one model that they had. But to your point about them not being self critical here. Here's what's even crazier. First of all, they got worse as they accumulated credentials because they had enough information to fit any story that lends. But if you're a proper, like basin thinker for the statistics people when you go wrong, you should update your mental model. You know, you may still believe what you believe, but you should be a little less confident the most specialized people who are the worst, forecasters, sometimes went horribly wrong in a prediction, and updated in the wrong direction by strengthening the beliefs. Yeah. That sent them the wrong way a hiker in Hawaii who is convinced herself that. She's going in the right direction. Right. And so when you're reinforcing, the belief that led to a stray like you, are, you have lost all orientation, any kind of self critical analysis? I was thinking of Dave Grohl. Did you look into him at all? I did not. Yeah. So he played. He's a multi instrumentalist, and he plays everything. And if it was possible, foo fighters, would be just one guy. I mean, people like him and like prints and all and some of these the orphan orchestra that I described range if the strict way of thinking about ten thousand our we'll were true, then they than their time spent on different instruments would be zero sum competition with with each other, and they would not be able to get good at that many instruments. But it turns out that when you diversify across instruments, the number of hours, you need to pick up any subsequent ones gets lower and lower. Right. Right. It's a little like for some people languages. But it does it seems important and significant to me, if we're thinking about this. Well, how should I treat my children and how much should I specialize? Grohl played just Qatar from twelve to sixteen and then he got interested in drums, and then it was a guitarist and a drummer. But it seems to me if starting twelve he did drum lessons three days a week, and guitar than three days a week that would have been worse for his output. And, you know, American listeners as well maybe maybe hard to know for sure in, in particular scenarios. And I don't think we should like for SCR. I don't think we should like prescribe diversification anymore than we should prescribe specialization. Yes. But the but it does seem like we're unnaturally convinced we've been convinced that specializations the way to go. And if nothing else of this book stands as a counter argument to that it's done its job. It does stand as a counter argument to that. And I think, you know, the appro I'm a new parent, and, and I'm taking a kind of an approach. I'm not worried about missing the next Tiger Woods. Or Mozart for example, for first of all because we tell those stories wrong, in fact, as Tiger Woods said his father, never asked him to play off all his you've. Read that you read the Catan Benedict. Yes, it seems like there was more of a psychological experiment going on. And the father, just convinced tiger to ask to play golf. Well, we're like did a number on him so that he could. But he initially responded to Tigers display of this, very unusual prowess and interest in it. You know, the things he did after same with Mozart's father initially responded to Mozart's interests, like the first time most asked to play with musicians came over. He was like, nobody's you haven't had a lesson go away and some other musicians had, we'll all go play with him because he started crying, and then his father like hears music coming from the next room. So I don't think I've been that musician writes a letter saying, second violin. This guys has good as the first violinist. Yeah. Well, and actually, I remember the letter says, like Wolfgang was emboldened, by our applause to insist that actually he could play the I violin also but so I'm not really worried about missing that. So the approach, I like is this one that the army started to implement where they used to be very upper out. And now they have something called talent base branching where instead of saying you're going into this career path. You know, try. Move upper out. They say here's a bunch of careers. They pair them with a coach, and they say dabble in these the coach will help you reflect on did this fit your strengths and interests, and we'll sort of zigzag until you get a better match. And then you will know about all these other things out there, so you can integrate with your colleagues, but, but we want to work toward getting you the right match and they've had much better success. In developing officers and retention with town base branching. So I would kind of see my role as that coach for a kid facilitate exposure opportunities in that, that, that those experiences, even if they don't go into will not be wasted. You can you bring that knowledge into other domains, and I'll just be the coach that helps them reflect and make sure that they get the maximum amount of learning from those experiences. Here's my last question, it seems to me and you write about this implicitly or explicitly in the book all of our best known social science. Studies are either wrong or more accurately put misinterpreted, so you're grit study the marshmallows study the Stanford prison in the milgram shock study that Malcolm's ten thousand hours study. Priming and power poses. Like, what is this isn't just replication there seems to and I'm not talking about. I didn't choose a grab bag of some of the most known social studies. These are one through ten basically what is going on? So I mean I confess in range to having research. That is still early published that I'm now pretty darn sure is now. Right. Or if it's right, then it's just by luck. And what happened was when I went into grad school, instantly, I go into learning didactic information about Arctic plant physiology, and never learned, how scientific methodology should work how to determine how, you know, if something is true, how statistics work, which has gotten really dangerous because they're such powerful computer programs for statistics. You don't have to learn it. You get a huge database big data's made it weighs your to do crap science, also easier do certain kinds of good science. But, and so, you know, I was running statistical tests on this huge databases, not realizing that the way I was doing that. And the methodology I was using was ensuring that I would find spurious results and only as a. A journalist writing about poor scientific practices that I started to go, like, wait a minute. This is what I did. And, and so we have this huge whole generation, right? And I and I got rewarded for it with an Ivy league master's degree. And so we have this whole generation of people who were not taught how the fundamental broad concepts and skills should work before. They're shoved into a specialization. That's why in the last chapter I kind of profile one of the most prominent scientists in the world who's at Johns Hopkins right now starting a program explicitly to dispatch allies, the training of scientists, who we normally consider the people who are like the most specialized in the entire world, range. Why generalists triumph in a specialized world by David Epstein? Thanks, david. Thanks for having me. Doctors are doing the best. They can't fight cancer. The most challenging disease humankind has ever faced, but they're often limited by two D matsch's to understand a patient's three D anatomy. What if this could be different? Dr Christopher Morley. Dr Osama Chowdhry created Medved's technology that can take two dimensional patient, imaging, whether an MRI or cat scan and converted into three dimensional holographic renderings. This will fundamentally change, how doctors visualized cancer doctor Morley. And Chowdhry thought this technology might just not be possible because computing power just wasn't there. But Verizon five G ultra wideband. We'll give them the ability to do this variety and five G ultra wideband will help give doctors the ability to fight cancer like never before. Now the spiel and this is stupid on this edition of this is stupid. We begin by reading this description of a policy stance of an expert. This is provided by the New York Times, quote, Jessica Bill recently visited California state lawmakers to oppose new restrictions on medical exemptions, to the state's mandatory vaccination law. Here's what you need to know. I'll tell you what I need to know. None of that lots of celebrities have lots of scientifically, backwards ideas, Gwyneth Paltrow makes a fortune shoving Jade eggs, up her who ha- Cairo Irving doesn't believe in dinosaurs. But the thing that's really stupid is the explanation of why this star of let's say movies, or maybe a TV show what she actually believes again. She visited California state lawmakers to oppose new restrictions on medical exemptions. Nhs to the state's mandatory vaccination laws. I understand some of these words, mandatory restrictions think I get exemptions, but she opposes the restrictions of the exemptions to the mandate. Perhaps, we could get a referendum on a plebiscite to carve out safe harbors for position to the restrictions of the exemptions to the mandate, which are about vaccinations. So, in other words, we would offer indemnification or absolution to an opposition over the restrictions of the exemptions to the mandate for the immunity offered by an occupations, what I'm saying is this, Jessica bills, an anti vaccine, or maybe she's an anti pro vaccine? Or maybe she's anti antibiotics is part of a probiotic diet. All I know is this. I never saw seventh heaven and therefore I'm actually unfamiliar with any of the movies. She's been in. I did see, I now pronounce you, Chuck and Larry which it says she did have a role in. And there is no inoculation from that in other, this is stupid news here. Now, you're about to listen to a Representative from the Guinness Book of world records, and this is stupid so hits day in Germany been bucks by Honda to officially. Witness this, this world record for the fastest acceleration for one hundred miles per hour by loan, mar lawnmower. A very fast lawnmower that not to exist. Why would you need a lawn mower that goes one hundred miles an hour? How much crass is really going to be cut at that speed. These aren't the questions Guinness was obsessed with instead, they focused more on basic taxonomy. The vehicle must intrinsically look like a lawnmower. That's pretty precise. But you'll be happy to know that the qualifications don't end with just that. And it also must be able to cut gross. Not only must look like it cuts grass. It must cut grass. But wait, what if the thing really did mow the lawn just didn't look like it, mowed the lawn then it wouldn't count as a lawn mower? I dunno perhaps to be an extremely fast cow. So did the lawnmower set the record? Let's find out now confirm. But this little built by Hong. Stop just stop. This is not a world record. This is stupid. And this is stupid. This is somebody that said we have information on your opponent. Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break. Lifeless director says what should happen? The FBI director is wrong, look, if we didn't use a lot of discernment Mr. Trump would be leadoff, batter meat and kicker of the this is stupid segment for all time. And we can't let that happen. So, in fact, I don't want to even hold up the stupid thing. He said as the stupid thing on. This is stupid. No. Let's go to FOX, which by decree had to defend the indefensible, of course, no matter what he says there's always good justification. You usually pick from an assortment of three general justifications one. That's not what he meant to. He was joking. You don't get the joke. What are you merlots three? The Dem's do it, too, on this one with a little gloss of, and isn't it great? How upset the other side. Got they went with three the mainstream media melting down over the president telling ABC that he would listen, if foreign government offered him, damaging information about a political opponent, but isn't that exactly what Democrats did in two thousand sixteen? It is not suit dress, the Democrats commission, Dapo research, legal and ethical from US firm, fusion GPS, who had an employee Christopher Steele, who's a foreigner. This is as illegal is hiring a firm to direct a campaign commercial and the makeup artist on the shoot is a quantum onlin. Or let's say or Norwegian luckily, FOX brought out a professional constitutional law. Attorney general LS Reeves is here to shed some light on all of this force. Thank you so much for joining us. Jim Ellis Reeves teaches at Colorado Christian university, which doesn't have a law school, Geno. Reeves is the author of the legal basis for a moral constitution which she wrote because quote law school teaches that law is arbitrary inflec-. Depending on the current majority whim, this presents a conflict when dealing with our constitution which is predicated on the biblical worldview. What, what was that? Don't they didn't? They order the amendments, and then the first one, say something anyway, anyway, anyway, don't want to question the constitutional scholar here. Was the question that was put to her. This is what Democrats did, especially when it comes to the still dossier, because you have the still dossier written by Christopher Steele, who was from Great Britain. And then you have his information coming from Russian sources, right long. Like I said, it's not analogous. It does, muddy the waters accepting opposition research, from foreigners is wrong, and illegal. The Steele dossier is not wrong illegal Robert Muller. In his report said the reason he did not indict Donald Trump junior for accepting opposition research from foreigners. I e the meeting with veselnitskaya in Trump Tower is that Robert Mueller could improve Donald Trump junior. Knew it was wrong. But this time you gotta figure. Donald Trump, senior might not admit it, but he knows. It's wrong here was the professors answer to this question. Here was her analogy, and so for the Democrats calling for impeachment, when they're supposedly advocating for free and fair elections is like using your first amendment, right to exercise freedom of speech by calling for government censorship. I'd like to note that using free speech to call for censorship is not hypocritical. It's what anyone who's ever spoken out loud against child porn laws or written op Ed in support of child porn laws has done. It's not hypocritical to call for both free elections, and then also to advocate for impeaching a president who breaks the law. Wait on the one hand, you say you want free elections. But on the other, you also don't wanna president influenced by foreign power. That was trying to influence the election, hypocrites. No, it's not hypocritical. And it's not wrong, and it's not an accurate representation of what went down and. That interview. But you know what it is? This is stupid. And this has been this is stupid, CNN time and remember, stay stupid. I say that or is it stupid? And that's it for today show pure Vienna. Man. Daniel Schrader produced the gist. They specialize in editing interviews, but have enough range to pause and engaged in in-depth discussions of seventh, heaven to giraffe's, senior, producer of sleep podcasts, Shing gauge, and a thorough fact, check of her past decrees and would like to publicly announce that her tweet of December two thousand seventeen is no longer. Valid Russell brand is not the future of podcasting. The gist just announced the too hot for TV debate between all the candidates excluded from the stage of Miami. You'll get Messim Bullock Multan Mullick Bolton and the micro dank memes plus Howard Schultz Howard Chilton's back surgeon Eichel Nadi Sherrod Brown. Mitch Landrieu Oprah Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey security detail to keep between herself and Michael avenue. Nineteen Eighty-four era. Mario Cuomo, and Henry clay, and so much more, send a self addressed. Too hot for TV debates PO box twenty twenty below Colorado with no, Chuck Todd to ride herd. This lot will burst through the TV set with their antics, proposals grievances, lulled cats talking points federal charges misguided. Both side ISM and rumored mob ties. Be there be square in this case neither too hot for the debate stage. Unlike these candidates don't miss it per do Peru. And thanks for listening.